The term DISABILITY is very hard to define because there is a wide variety of actual conditions that tend to affect each person very differently. Disabilities can change over time; it can become almost nonexistent to very severe, or even just stay the same. It is also one of the only groups of people that anyone can join - non-disabled people are sometimes called "temporarily able-bodied," -- TABs!
Currently, in the United States, disability is defined by whether a person is unable to or has major difficulty in performing an activity of daily living (ADL's). An ADL can include walking, climbing stairs, performing basic household tasks, hearing "normal" conversation, reading/seeing "normal" newsprint, etc. An ADL is anything that is considered to be a "normal” task in person's everyday life.
A study done in 1986 by the International Classification of Disability (ICD) found that 50% of people with disabilities did not consider themselves to be disabled. There are many reasons why a person with a disability would not consider themselves disabled. For example, if an individual needs to use a wheelchair because they cannot walk, not being able to walk may not feel like a disability until the individual is faced with a flight of stairs or something that is not accessible. That is when a “disability” can actually be seen as a hindrance.
Questions for thought:
• Even though the government and society considers you to be disabled, do you feel that way?
• Are there any situations that make you feel as if you more disabled than you believe you are?
• Do you think being labeled "disabled" because you have to accomplish an ADL differently is an appropriate way to determine whether or not a person has a disability?
• If not, how would you define “disability”?
Bullock, C. & Mahon, M. (2001). Introduction to Recreation Services for People with Disabilities: A Person-Centered Approach. Champaign, IL: Sagamore Publishing.